Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2023 12:28 pm 
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WU LANG: ABSENCE (2021)

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Sad poetry

Cinematography by Wang Jiehong is the chief star of this symphony of sad stoicism following the doomed idyl of a returned ex con and the hair dresser who has waited ten years for him, an affair that suffers the drawback of a fraudulent building scheme.

Lee Kang-sheng, best known for his indelible starring roles in the films of Tsai Ming-liang over more than 30 years, holds the screen with his customary stoic vulnerability in this stirring feature debut from Chinese director Wu Lang. Here he plays Han Jiangyu, who has returned to the island province of Hainan after a long stint in prison, endeavoring to reconnect with his former girlfriend (Li Meng), a hairdresser, and the little girl who might be his daughter.

At the same time, he must navigate the difficulties of a new job in construction while the country’s real estate boom begins to unravel. Wu eludes cliché, using the camera in continually gorgeous and unexpected fashion in this story about the slow process of rejoining a world that seems to have irrevocably moved on. A possible problem for the viewer is that the slow-cinema beginning fades off into fantasy toward the end as the unfinished apartment complex becomes flooded below and then is occupied by a herd of sheep. The images of the couple playfully occupying an apartment in a derelict space with no services, then gesturing to adopt a last baby sheep feel just a little too fanciful and fey. We Lang, who has a background as a sculptor, is more a visual poet than a storyteller.

Absence/Xue yun, originated as a short film at Cannes in 2021, its feature film form debuted at the Berlinale, Feb. 21, 2023. Screened for this review as part of New Directors/New Films at MoMA and Film at Lincoln Center Mar. 29-Apr. 2023.

Sunday, April 2
3:00pm, FLC Walter Reade Theater (Q&A with Wu Lang)
Monday, April 3
6:00pm, MoMA T2 (Q&A with Wu Lang)


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LEE MENG, LEE KAI-SHENG IN ABSENCE

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